AL WestAL WestAnalysisNewsOpinions

Requiem For A Team

Even when they don’t play, the so-called “Oakland” Athletics manage to ruin my day.

It was announced yesterday that the A’s are playing their final season in the city they’ve called home for 56 years, abandoning Oakland for a minor league stadium in Sacramento, while John Fisher twiddles his thumbs waiting for the Las Vegas government to fund whatever garish stadium he desires. One final punch to the gut for a fanbase that’s become used to them.

In hindsight, it was always destined to end this way, wasn’t it? Relocation has been an ever-present sword of Damocles hanging over the franchise’s head for almost as long as they’ve been in Oakland. Back in the late 70s, then-owner Charles Finley, a handful of years after dismantling the fabled Swingin’ A’s that brought Oakland three World Series victories in a row, tried to move the A’s first to Denver, then to New Orleans. But then, like Superman coming to the rescue of Lois Lane, Walter Haas Jr. swept in to buy the A’s from Finley and keep them in Oakland.

This time, Superman is dead. It’s rather fitting; John Fisher makes a good Lex Luther stand-in. The rich billionaire stubbornly driven to kill the source of hope and joy for millions. And he’ll be damned if he lets protests from Oakland fans, lawsuits from Nevada citizens, and even the mayor of Las Vegas saying “the A’s should find a way to stay in Oakland” get in his way. This is how the world works. Money talks, power walks, and everyday people like you and me lose. Oakland fans lose because their team is gone, Nevada citizens lose because they will be footing the bill for one of the worst run teams in MLB, and baseball fans lose because one of the most storied teams in the history of the sport, the team tied for the second most World Series championships since they moved to Oakland, the team of Rickey, Reggie, Vida, Eck, Catfish, and countless others, is being destroyed and erased to appease the whims of a man who only got where he is in life because of whose balls he swam out of.

I remember when it didn’t feel this way. I remember in 2016 when John Fisher became full owner of the team, and Dave Kaval was named president. For the first time since the Haas years, it felt like there was a concentrated effort to keep the A’s in Oakland. First, in 2017, there was the Laney College site, but that fell through when the district board voted against it. But that was okay because just a year later, the A’s released renderings of a potential ballpark at Howard Terminal. And if that didn’t work, the A’s said they would buy the current Coliseum site from the city of Oakland and Alameda County to potentially build there instead. All the while investing in the Coliseum itself, creating an excellent ticket package for fans called A’s Access, and fielding not only one of the best teams in MLB, but also one of the most exciting and dynamic. It felt like there was hope. Like the A’s truly were, as was said so often during this time, rooted in Oakland.

But then Fisher decided to rip out those roots, not satisfied with the city of Oakland refusing to capitulate to his every demand. Not satisfied with the city of Oakland only providing $321.5 million for the proposed Howard Terminal project, not satisfied with paying $97 million to extend the A’s lease, the same $97 million that ended the Howard Terminal plans, Fisher has decided that the A’s will take up residency in a triple-A ballpark in Sacramento until his Vegas stadium is built. Never has the nickname the Triple-A’s been more accurate.

The only silver lining to this entire debacle is that John Fisher had the good grace to wait until the team was historically bad to finally relocate. The A’s are 1-6, coming off of a season that set the benchmark for franchise futility since the existence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They have arguably the worst farm system in MLB, with management that has completely failed for the last three years to give whatever fans that either stick around or pick up the green and gold any hope that the team will even be respectable in the foreseeable future.

You would think that after trading away nearly every member of a team that went to the postseason three years in a row, winning 97 games in two of those years, you would get some good prospects in return. But you would be wrong. As it stands, of all the players the A’s acquired in their grand firesale between 2022 and 2023, only two have produced at least half a point of bWAR in their time with Oakland, those being Shea Langeliers and J.P. Sears. Many of the players produced negative value and are no longer a part of the organization. And that’s just the ones that have actually worn the green and gold. The prospects acquired in those trades haven’t turned out much better, with nearly all of them losing whatever luster they had in their time as a member of the A’s system. But you would think, with four top 10 picks in the last nine years, surely you would be able to draft some talented players. But again, you would be wrong. Ever since drafting Matt Chapman in 2014, the A’s have gone on to have one of the worst stretches of first-round picks in MLB history. Just four of their 12 first-round picks during that span have made the majors. Combined they’ve put up a ghastly -2.4 bWAR as big leaguers, with no other team in MLB having worse production from their first-round picks during that time span. Largely, it’s a result of just one of those 14 players producing a positive WAR value. That player’s name is A.J. Puk, who, you might recall, hasn’t been a member of the A’s since 2022.

It has been incredibly depressing being an A’s fan over the last handful of years. Part of that is my own fault. Even with the writing all but on the wall for their future in Oakland and the team playing worse than ever, I’ve obsessively followed them. I can’t help it, the A’s are just a part of my identity. I was born into this fandom, quite literally; my first ever A’s game came just 2 months after I was born. Many of my favorite memories involve the A’s. The Coco Crisp walk-off in 2012, Yoenis Cespedes winning back-to-back home run derbies in 2013 and 2014, the 2018 team introducing me to some of my favorite players of all time, and getting to experience postseason baseball for the first time in my life at the 2019 AL Wildcard game.

It goes so much deeper than just being a fan though. I’ve made so many friends through the wonderful Oakland community. I’m currently in college to get a degree in industrial engineering, something I would’ve never done if I hadn’t watched Moneyball and become obsessed with stats and data. The A’s are one of the only things my dad and I can talk about and bond over (Ironically he will continue supporting the team even when they move to Vegas, while I will hope they never win another game). I might’ve never realized I was transgender, or at least taken much longer to realize, because I only met the person who helped me realize I was trans through the Oakland A’s subreddit. This team is woven into who I am as a person in a way nothing else is. And I’m not the only one. Oakland is losing far more than just a baseball team. It’s losing a source of local pride, something to form a community around, something that can improve people’s lives. 

In my time as a fan, the A’s have never won a World Series. They’ve barely made it past the first round of the postseason. I didn’t get to watch any of the playoff series they won. I was too young in 2006 when they made the ALCS, and I had a high school baseball game when they won the 2020 ALWC series. In between that, they lost five straight win-or-go-home games. Each of those games is burned into my mind. The helpless feeling of watching them get shut out by Justin Verlander in 2012, then having almost the exact same thing happen in 2013. The emotional roil that was Jon Lester choking away the lead against the Royals, the A’s finally taking it back in the 12th, only to be walked off in the bottom half of the inning during the 2014 ALWC. I was left crying after the most successful A’s team of my lifetime had its season ended in the 2018 ALWC. And in 2019, I was there in person to watch another team celebrate on Rickey Henderson Field at the end of that year’s ALWC. And at the end of each of those, I said to myself “There’s always next year.” Even if team management had completely missed on all their trades and recent draft picks, even if ownership wasn’t going to provide any money, even if there was seemingly no hope for the team, the continued existence of the Oakland A’s meant there was always a chance. Always a chance for something magical to happen. They had done it before. They did it in 2002, they did it in 2012, they did it in 2018. The A’s always just needed that next year. Not anymore. Now, there isn’t a next year. Now, there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, the sun will not come up tomorrow. There may be another 152 games for them to play, but go ahead and light your candle now. The Oakland A’s are dead. May their memory live forever.

Elizabeth Tsai

A lifelong baseball fan, I've supported the Oakland A's through good times and bad. A numbers geek, I love diving into the stats to find any fascinating stories not obvious to the basic eye test. Proud transgender woman

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button